WASHINGTON (Sept. 14, 2010)—A half-century of work by legendary photographer William Albert Allard is celebrated in a new book from National Geographic publishing this fall. Part photography retrospective and part compelling memoir, WILLIAM ALBERT ALLARD: FIVE DECADES, A RETROSPECTIVE (ISBN 978-1-4262-0637-5, Oct. 19, 2010; $50) paints a full picture through images and narrative of one of color photography’s most celebrated pioneers.
A major force at National Geographic magazine and in mainstream photography for almost 50 years, Allard is an acclaimed master of portraiture. With a style that calls for entering people’s homes and hearts, he approaches his subjects with an open mind and respectful interest that earns him the confidence of those he photographs. In so doing, he has been able to capture off-guard moments and reveal the depth of human nature as had never before been seen in the pages of National Geographic.
“Many of these pictures were not really taken, they were given,” Allard writes in his introduction to the book. “The subjects trusted me. They projected something of themselves to me, and it became my privilege and pleasure to receive that something, look at it, arrange the space in which it resided, find what seemed to be order within chaos, and make the photograph.”
Around 80 percent of the images in the book are previously unpublished, others are older, iconic pictures — all represent what Allard believes to be the best of his work, domestic and foreign. He works only in color — he “feels” color, he writes, and in his photography, “color and composition are inseparable.” He is one of the few photographers of his generation whose entire professional body of work is in color.
Through evocative images Allard opens a window into the world of the Amish and Hutterites; he documents the American West and its cowboys, subjects “that captured my attention and heart for the better part of a decade”; he shines a light into the dark existence of India’s Untouchables; he celebrates Paris, his favorite city in the world, where “wandering the streets is like walking through a series of one-act plays”; and he show us his visions of the Basque Country, Sicily, Italy and Peru.
“Many of the pictures in this book were found along a road, in a bar, down a street, maybe while I was wandering through a country. Often I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but was simply allowing myself to be open to what serendipity might offer. Just looking,” Allard muses.
Allard is a great story teller in both pictures and words, and his powerful narrative adds layers of meaning to the images. He tells of the harmony of art, books and music that shaped his life. He recounts a frightening experience in the field, when he looked straight into the cold eyes and loaded gun of a subject who had become unhinged; and of a sunny day in Italy, serene until news broke of the horrors occurring in New York that day — Sept. 11, 2001. He reflects on the pictures he didn’t take, because the moment was too fragile or fleeting, or the photographer too intrusive.
Always in search of images that ask questions and tell stories, Allard has masterfully captured beauty, mystery and a sense of adventure over 50 years of globe-trotting exploits.
Allard’s work will be highlighted in the October 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine — a photo essay by Allard on the American West will feature a number of images from the book. Additionally, a companion exhibition to the book will open at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City on Thursday, Dec. 2.
About the author:
William Albert Allard has contributed to National Geographic Society magazine stories and books as a photographer and writer since 1964. Among his nearly three dozen stories for the magazine are “Rodeos: Behind the Chutes,” “Untouchable,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Welcome to Bollywood,” “Thailand’s Urban Giants,” “Hutterite Sojourn,” and most recently “Under the Big Sky” in the upcoming October 2010 issue. Allard’s work also has appeared in many major U.S. and European publications. His five previous books are “Vanishing Breed: Photographs of the Cowboy and the West,” “The Photographic Essay,” “A Time We Knew: Images of Yesterday in the Basque Homeland,” “Time at the Lake: A Minnesota Album” and “Portraits of America.” Allard is a former contributor to Magnum Photos and his images are featured in many private and museum collections. He shares his time between his homes outside Charlottesville, Va., and in Missoula, Mont.